General

Letter from Ireland

We have been away for some three weeks, in Ireland, yes, the Republic of Ireland; and tonight is the last night we would spend in this country before we return home. This morning, we left Bantry in our rental and drove over 100km to Kinsale which is a costal and picturesque town famous for its food and sceneries and which is close to the Cork Airport – about 25 minutes drive – where we would return the rental and take a flight to Heathrow before flying home direct. As we lugged our bags up, Su said that this would be my last opportunity to write anything in Ireland in this trip.

So I took out my Lenovo laptop which has been gathering dust, for various reasons – it still works – and began typing away.

Where do I begin? Once again, I had more than a few attempts to write something since my last posting, which was more than three months ago. I began by moaning about the later phases of house moving which by the way had yet to be completed, but the few paragraphs I had written could hardly described what Su and I had gone through, and besides who would be interested in learning about such details. Then there were the notes on what we did in the first few days in Dublin before we joined up with the main group, but they were mainly about the culinary skills of Su which many of you have heard about and which would probably raise few eyebrows if at all. Then I came to the Reunion Tour itself, but I hate to turn myself into a trip advisor.

We returned to Dublin a second time almost a week ago, when our group of 27 split into two, with 17 proceeding to Scotland and the rest dispersed to their respective homes in different parts of the world. Su and I took a train from Dublin to Cork from where we took a taxi to the Airport for our rental, which marked the beginning of the last leg of our Ireland trip for which Su had planned so carefully and meticulously and with plenty of research.

A number of extraordinary thing happened in these few days, at least to me if not to both of us.

First, it was my first time in many years to rent a car, and certainly my first time to book it through the Internet, which I did in a hotel in Ireland under the supervision of Su. The last time I took out a car rental was in Germany in the mid Eighties when I was travelling with my young family from Oxford to Europe. At the Avis counter at Cork Airport, I was asked to present a credit card and my driving license, I had no problem with credit cards, and I promptly presented my well kept International Driving Permit issued by the Government of the HKSAR. Thereupon, the Avis lady told me that her company required customers to produce their home driving permits and nothing less. In response, I offered her my HKID card with the explanation that my Hong Kong driving permit carried the same number, but it didn’t help. I was dumbfounded and I asked myself what would become of the rest of the holidays for which Su had confirmed four of the five nights of hotel accommodation. To cut the long story short, and to give credit where it was due, I was saved by the Avis lady who successfully persuaded her friend at the next counter working for a rival car rental which operated a slightly more flexible rental policy to rent me a car on largely similar terms.

As we walked to the car, a feeling of déjà vu crept up – could this be a continuation of our “two for the road” episode which premiered in June in France? But the sight of the car distracted my train of thoughts. It was a rather small car. I have never driven a car that small in all my life. Once again, it shows how little I have learnt from past experience, on at least two counts. First, looks can be deceptive and often are. Small cars are actually a lot easier on the narrow country roads in Ireland and are good for parking. I can say this after a few days of driving. But technical skills pale into insignificance on such trips, which brings me to the realization of my second and very important problem, which is this. I found that I had learnt very little from the French experience; and while on the road, I was reduced to the learning grades once more. Worse, there were quiet moments when I felt so weak that I wished I had never agreed to take on driving on “two for the road” trips.

There were wonderful moments, many wonderful moments. Su had booked us into two first class hotels, in Ballymaloe and in Bantry. I said first class, not because of what they cost the wallet, but because of what they can potentially offer. Both places offer unique experience in more than a few ways which money can’t buy and which would take more than a couple of paragraphs to describe. I was speechless after the first and said to myself that I would write something, but which I did not and instead had indulged myself with a few more drinks.

Now, in the quiet of a less unusual but more conventional hotel room with Su fast asleep – she must be very tired – I began to realize all the more how ungrateful I must have been for having had Su running my life but not having had the decency of expressing my gratefulness to her in sufficient measures and frequencies.

Su had suggested that I was not an easy person to please and that I could have inherited some unhappy genes which apparently run in the family. These genes would at times manifest themselves in frustrating the person’s readiness in accepting happiness, and resulting in the person becoming habitually miserable. Such persons would set unreasonably high standards for happiness and hence would find themselves always in misery and by extension would not allow the people near and dear to them to enjoy full happiness.

I thanked Su for sharing her insight with me; but she warned me that if I do not take steps to suppress these bad genes in me, she could soon reach her limits too. I pray to God that I would learn to be more grateful with all the blessings I already have and that I would in particular be thankful for Su and the like of people who are often happy and are experts in transmitting happiness.

I hope to be able to transmit happiness too. What do you think?

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